SPORTS

Hawkeyes earn fifth seed in Big Ten tournament, play Thursday

Iowa faces either Illinois or Minnesota

Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery shakes hands with Illinois Coach John Groce before their NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery shakes hands with Illinois Coach John Groce before their NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — For the second consecutive season, Iowa’s men’s basketball team secured the fifth seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament.

The No. 15 Hawkeyes (21-9, 12-6 Big Ten) will play the winner of Illinois-Minnesota (who play on Wednesday in the 12-13 game) at around 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. With a win, the Hawkeyes would play fourth-seeded Purdue at 1:30 p.m. Friday. The Hawkeyes beat Illinois in Champaign and Minnesota in Iowa City last month. Iowa played both teams just once.

Iowa finished in a four-way tie for third with Maryland, Purdue and Wisconsin. Maryland claimed the first tiebreaker with the best record in games among the four teams (3-2). Purdue (3-3 among the teams) ousted Iowa (2-2) were tied by winning percentage, while Wisconsin (2-3 among the teams) dropped to sixth. The tiebreaker for Purdue and Iowa consisted of winning percentage against the best team outside the tied group, Big Ten spokesman Brett McWethy confirmed Monday morning. Iowa and Purdue had the same winning percentage against first-place Indiana (.000) and second-place Michigan State (1.000). Purdue beat seventh-place Ohio State, while Iowa lost to the Buckeyes. The Hawkeyes won both meetings with the Boilermakers, but that was not part of the tiebreaking process.

It’s quite a drop for Iowa, which began Big Ten play 10-1 and ranked as high as No. 3 nationally. But after beating Michigan on Saturday, Iowa senior Jarrod Uthoff prefers to look forward rather than pine for what didn’t happen the last three weeks.

“I’m mad that we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do. But that’s the way it goes,” Uthoff said. “We’ve got bigger things at stake. We’ve got a national championship to think about, the Big Ten Tournament to think about.”

Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said he thought the team made “great strides” in some of Iowa’s losses and was proud of the fight his players displayed against Michigan (20-11, 10-8).

“I thought we competed hard against Wisconsin,” McCaffery said. “I thought we competed hard against Ohio State. Same for Indiana, and we lost to three really good teams. We played a really good team (Saturday) and played better. We are fighting. We were back to 19 assists and just eight (turnovers). That’s more like us. It was better than the last game. It hadn’t been like that for a little while so that’s good to see.”

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Iowa is 0-3 in its three previous games as the Big Ten’s fifth seed, including last year’s 67-58 loss to Penn State. Iowa’s first two years in the tournament were as the fifth seed with losses to Michigan and Wisconsin, respectively. The Hawkeyes are 2-0 against Minnesota (8-22, 2-16) in Big Ten Tournament play and 1-0 against Illinois (13-18, 5-13).

WEDNESDAY’S GAMES

12. Illinois vs. 13. Minnesota, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

11. Nebraska vs. 14. Rutgers, 6 p.m. (BTN)

THURSDAY’S GAMES

9. Northwestern vs. 8. Michigan, 11 a.m. (BTN)

5. Iowa vs. Minnesota-Illinois winner, 1:30 p.m. (BTN)

10. Penn State vs. 7. Ohio State, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

6. Wisconsin vs. Rutgers-Nebraska winner, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

FRIDAY’S GAMES

1. Indiana vs. Northwestern-Michigan winner, 11 a.m. (ESPN)

4. Purdue vs. Iowa-Minnesota/Illinois winner, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)

2. Michigan State vs. Ohio State-Penn State winner, 5:30 p.m. (BTN)

3. Maryland vs. Wisconsin-Rutgers/Nebraska winner, 8 p.m. (BTN)

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Top bracket winners, noon (CBS)

Bottom bracket, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)

SUNDAY’S GAME

Championship, 2 p.m. (CBS)

l Comments: (319) 339-3169; scott.dochterman@thegazette.com

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